Disney made a huge announcement on June 25th regarding one of their most iconic rides. Splash Mountain, in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, will be completely rethemed to Princess and the Frog. This news comes amid the Black Lives Matter protests, though this was not the first time this idea has been proposed for the ride. A few years ago, petitions also circled calling for Princess Tiana to be the focus of the log ride which is currently based on characters from the 1946 Disney film Song of the South. Disney states that this was not brought on by any rash decision, but has instead been in the works for a few years now, and they are excited to bring to life the new adventure with Princess Tiana. We personally are hoping for it to be called either The Princess and the Log OR Bayou Mountain, but we won’t hold our breath on either of those names.
Have you been wondering what exactly makes Song of the South deemed as racist? This film has been problematic for Disney for several years, as many of its components adds to a list of Disney scenes that have not aged well. Though never being able to see the film ourselves, we did research to see what elements of the film were particularly problematic. It seems the biggest issue that the film presents, is an idyllic, historically inaccurate, and romanticized view of Plantation life in the American South. The relationships between the Black “workers” and Plantation owners is painted in a way to diminish the effects of Black enslavement that would have been present at that time. So the Black characters that are referred to as workers, were likely slaves. There was also an accentuation of the stereotypical “Black vernacular” that is depicted in the film. Though the film is not a complete Disney invention, as it is based off of the books and writings by Joel Chandler Harris.
The film follows Uncle Remus, a plantation “worker” who regales the children on the plantation of the tales of Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Fox. This is where Splash Mountain as we know it comes into the picture, as the characters we see on the ride are from the stories that Uncle Remus tells the children. These are the animated characters in Song of the South. The origins of these characters in particular can be traced back beyond Harris’ writings, and even seen as far back as African folklore. The lessons taught in the writings of these characters are common tales in the South. So, for all intents and purposes, the characters that we see on the ride are not inherently racist. However, the film that they are visually based on and contextualized is not an accurate representation of the treatment of Black slaves on a Plantation and diminishes the historical value of the truth.
That being said…we are excited that Splash Mountain will be changing into something new. Disney is forward thinking and will move ahead with the best intentions in mind for the younger generation. Personally, we would argue that Tiana should have her own new ride rather than a retrofitting of an existing ride. However, having a prominent, strong, Black female Disney character that children know and love take the stage on this ride will be a welcome change. Disney states that the ride will take place after the final kiss and will take us with Tiana as she heads to a Mardi Gras celebration. This begs to question will we even see an appearance from the Shadow Man himself, Dr. Facilier? The current Laughing Place would be an amazing placement for him, though with that timeline it would not make sense for him to be on the ride. There are rumors that the Riverboat is staying at the end scene where we normally hear Zip-a-dee-doo-da, and that that will be the Mardi Gras celebration scene. Only time will tell!
The placement of the ride does throw off the theming of lands in both parks, though especially here at Walt Disney World. It would put a New Orleans Princess in Frontierland, where we have no segway as they do in Disneyland, where Splash Mountain sits between New Orleans Square and Critter Country. As the ride is New Orleans themed and will be filled with Louis and other animals, it doesn’t seem as much of a stretch as it does here in Florida. We hope this means some additional theming around the Magic Kingdom that would help transition guests to the ride. There is no set date yet for the renovation to take place, but we are excited to ride down that flume a few more times as Splash Mountain and of course many times ahead as Princess and the Frog.
To hear more of our thoughts, give Episode 008: The Princess and the Log a listen!